SoilSoc Research

Research projects Thesis abstracts

Effects of climate change and land use on tundra ecosystems in Iceland

Institute / Organisation / Unit: Agricultural University of Iceland (www.lbhi.is) and The Icelandic Institute of Natural History (www.ni.is).

Research director / Project Leader / Student Supervision: Dr. Inga Svala Jóndóttir (starting date summer 2007).

Other researchers: Dr. Borg■ˇr Magn˙sson, The Icelandic Institute of Natural History, Jˇn Gu­mundsson, Agricultural University of Iceland, Dr. Bjarni Gu­leifsson, Agricultural University of Iceland, Dr. Hlynur Ëskarsson, Agricultural University of Iceland and Dr. Rannveig Anna Guicharnaud, Agricultural University of Iceland.

Keywords: Climate change, grazing, ecosystem function, biodiversity, stability.

Discription: In a changing climate it becomes increasingly important to study the impact on ecosystems. In the short-term (<10 yrs) land use has greater impact and may direct how ecosystems respond to climate change, emphasizing the importance of understanding the combined effect. The overall aim of the project is to study impact of climate change and land use on tundra ecosystems in Iceland and to test hypothesis on relationships between biodiversity, ecosystem function and stability. There are four main objectives: (1) To assess change in plant community structure (species composition, vegetation cover, canopy height) over the last decade or more in a range of plant communities in response to natural change in climate (temperature, precipitation/snow cover), experimental warming (1-2 degrees celcius) and sheep grazing pressure; (2) To investigate the characteristics of both increasing and decreasing plant species; (3) Explore the relationship between biodiversity (plant, invertebrate and vertebrate species richness, food webs) and plant community stability; (4) Study how biodiversity and plant community structure affects ecosystem function in terms of green biomass (NDVI), soil nitrogen availability and CO2- flux in a changing climate under different grazing pressure. The study will focus on ecosystems at the Audk˙luheidi highlands along soil moisture gradient and a post-glacial lava fields at Thigvellir by utilizing ongoing long-term climate warming experiment established at both locations in 1996 (ITEX) and permanent vegetation plots at Audk˙luheidi that have been monitored for more than a decade along the Bl÷ndulˇn reservoir.